The Cost of Studying Abroad, In A “Twinning Degree”, And Local Universities Compared

The Cost of Studying Abroad, In A “Twinning Degree”, And Local Universities Compared

These days, a bachelor’s degree qualification has become more of a prerequisite than an advantage for job seekers in Malaysia. Making sure that their children receive an education at a reputable university has become one of the most important responsibilities that parents face.

On the flipside, university education can be expensive and hence, is becoming increasingly elusive for many Malaysians if they are unable to score a scholarship or a loan. Average working parents in Malaysia spend about 55% of their salaries on each child to complete their tertiary education, a survey by the London-based Expert Market found.

The survey, which included 40 countries, also ranked Malaysia as the fifth most expensive country to get a university education in relation to household income, so putting your children through university is really no joke!

For some parents who had been diligently saving for their child’s overseas college fund for years may be forced to reconsider their options due to the plummeting value of Ringgit in recent months. Though it may not be ideal, but there are other options available for your child that is cheaper than an overseas education.

Of course, costs vary across different degrees, course structures, universities, and obviously, where you are taking it. With exchange rate coming into equation, these considerations must be reviewed periodically to ensure that your finances are able to keep up with the currency fluctuations.

What are the price differences between some of these popular study options available? Let us shed some light on how much it would generally cost Malaysians to study abroad, in a twinning programme, and in local universities.

Studying abroad

One of the biggest allures of studying abroad is the opportunity to see the world and also the perceived employability overseas. When you study abroad, you experience brand-new cultures with incredible new outlooks, customs and activities.

Below are some popular study destinations favoured by many Malaysian parents and students and how much they would cost on average. Of course, the cost will vary depending on the course and university.

CountryAnnual Tuition FeesAnnual Cost of LivingAnnual Cost Total
United StatesRM105,964RM49,554RM155,518
United KingdomRM91,965RM58,886RM150,851
Hong KongRM53,965RM75,047RM129,012

Source: HSBC’s Retail Banking and Wealth Management (RBWM), 2014.

While recent fluctuations in the Ringgit has made it more financially difficult for parents to send their children abroad, this option continues to be in demand due to the high quality of education, study experiences and the higher chances of employability offered by these higher learning institutions abroad.

Twinning programmes

Twinning programmes allow students to study a portion of their course in Malaysia, and then transfer to an institution in another country to complete their studies.

They are also known as “2+1” and “3+1” programmes. This refers to the structure of an undergraduate twinning course (two years in Malaysia + one year overseas). The structure of these twinning programmes can vary from university to university, and also depends on which country you are planning to study in (more below).

The credits a student accumulates, the material they cover, and the skills they acquire can be transferred, so they can pick up where they left off when they study abroad.

These programmes present a much more affordable option for those who want to experience student life abroad, and are becoming an increasingly popular option for Malaysians amid the down economy.

For example, if you enrol in Malaysia for a three-year twinning degree programme you finish two years of study in Malaysia and the last year in Australia, and might end up saving up to at least RM150,000 in tuition fees and living costs compared to if you did the entire three-year degree in Australia!

Several higher learning institutions in Malaysia have partnered with highly reputable institutions in other countries to create these programmes.

Additionally, some foreign institutions have established campuses in Malaysia such as Monash University and the University of Nottingham to offer these twinning programmes.

This means that students can choose to study their entire course at a campus that technically belongs to an overseas institution but is located in Malaysia: this is called a “3+0 degree”. That way, you can obtain a degree from a top foreign university without leaving home.

How much can you save when you enrol in a twinning programme compared to if you did the entire course abroad?

College/UniversitiesCourse structure*Total feesEstimated cost savings
American Degree Program:

SEGi University
2 + 2RM34,400RM276,636
(in two years)
Twinning programme:

Brickfields Asia College's UK Degree Transfer Programme for Law
2 + 1RM50,000RM251,642
(in two years)
Canadian Pre-University:

Taylor’s University
​1 + 2RM33,025RM86,541
(in a year)
Australian Matriculation Programme:

Sunway University
1 + 2RM23,240
(in a year)
Monash University Malaysia (Bachelor of Business and Commerce)3 + 0RM105,900RM431,190
(in three years)

*Figures taken from and Total fees shown apply to the duration of courses taking place in Malaysia only. Actual costs may differ.

Studying locally

The foremost advantage for Malaysian students when choosing to study in Malaysia is of course, the living costs in local currency and the tuition fees.

Beyond that, Malaysia also boasts an established and high quality education system and standards.

For example, University Malaya (UM), one of the oldest universities in Malaysia is ranked number 146th out of 300 top universities around the world in the QS World University Rankings for 2015/2016.Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) ranks at 31st in the world for its environmental studies programme, according to the 2015 QS World University Rankings by Subject.

The QS World University Rankings is an annual league table of the top universities in the world. In 2015, 3,539 institutions were considered for inclusion but only 891 ranked.

How much does it cost to study in some of the top Malaysian universities and what’s the savings you’ll get compared to studying abroad?

InstitutionDuration*Total Cost
Bachelor in Economics & Management: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia3 yearsRM3,300
Bachelor of Computer Science: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia4 yearsRM5,280
Bachelor of Business Administration: Universiti Malaya4 yearsRM7,053
Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) Accounting: Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman3 years RM35,900
Bachelor of Business (Hons) in Business Administration: INTI International University, Nilai, Malaysia3 yearsRM64,918

*For Malaysian students only. Actual costs may vary.

According to a report published in 2014 by HSBC, titled International Education, the average total cost of studying and also cost of living is US$12,941 (RM51,704.86). Based on this figure, we’ve calculated how much cheaper studying locally will be for you:

How much cheaper is it to study in Malaysia than in other countries? (per annum)

Australia 3.3XSingapore 2.9XUnited States 2.8X
United Kingdom 2.7XHong Kong 2.3XCanada 2.2X

Although many higher learning institutions of today carry a hefty price tag, it is of great importance to not let that discourage you from obtaining a university education. In Malaysia, students can seek out available financial aid options such as student loans offered by the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), or even apply for various scholarships.

It is also important to remember the significant amount of opportunities available for university graduates.

As the global economy converges and becomes increasingly competitive, finding a way to fund a higher education now can pay off in a huge way in years to come, and could be your first step toward obtaining a sound financial future.

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